October 23, 2022
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
There is a thing called “false piety.” It is when we wear a religious disguise of devotion, attend to our obligations, and outwardly abide by rules while being inwardly unkind, uncharitable, and exclusive. Wearing the right clothes, saying the proper prayers, being in sacred places, and reading devotional books, those exhibiting false piety craftily try to control others using the pretense of love. The Pharisees, consistently criticized by Jesus, are prime examples. Thinking they are superior to others, they foolishly believe they are better positioned with God and more worthy of God’s attention. Forming an exclusive “club,” they divide things between “mine” and “yours” and “us” and “them.” They quickly criticize and point out flaws and errors in rituals and thinking. Conformity becomes the first commandment and control is the game’s name.
The requirements for “club membership” are clear: do what we do, think what we think, and believe what we believe. Attempting to control others using the lure of “status” or “salvation,” they seduce others into thinking that conformity is the only way to holiness. Clinging to “my beliefs,” “my parish,” “my way of thinking,” they fail to see the more significant relationship with God that is veiled in all of these superficial rules and practices. Shallow, hollow, and empty vessels, they gloss over the more important virtues of justice, mercy, faithfulness, and forgiveness. Sparkling clean on the outside, but dirty on the inside. Spiritual arrogance is a grave sin. It alienates and hurts the little ones, those considered “least” in the kingdom.
God knows no favorites. Everyone belongs regardless of whether you are an official, bona fide member. Sometimes membership may be a detriment to actually living the Gospel if you’re joining the team for the wrong reasons. The genuinely humble ones may not appear to be overly “pious.” They may not know all of the proper prayers or abide by all of the correct rituals, but they know that they are broken and need mercy. There is no shame in being broken. In fact, many things need to be broken in order to be what they truly are! There is a reason Jesus told us to pray in private. It’s only between you and God. It is nobody else’s business.